The Catholic Faith is one of mystery. There is so much we find difficult to explain or understand, at least we lay people. How often have you heard homilies struggling to explain the Trinity or the Eucharist? Yet there is still a greater mystery, the greatest in all of Christianity in my opinion; how could Jesus love us.
How could He love me so much that He was willing to die for me, the screw-up with all my sins? How could He know all the sins I would commit, all the times I would reject Him or put things before Him yet love me enough to go to Cavalry? It is believed in the Garden He saw all the sins ever committed including yours and mine yet He willingly laid down His life so that we may have eternal life.
Yet even that was not enough for Him. He loved us so much at the Last Supper He created the Eucharist so that we could receive Him and draw close to Him. He sits now in our Tabernacles waiting for us to come visit Him. He passionately yearns for a relationship with us.
What is also amazing is that His love for us is not just limited to our salvation but all- encompassing. He cares deeply about every aspect of our lives and ardently yearns to pour His love upon us. “By His stripes we are healed”. He cares about our health, careers, relationships, our hopes and dreams, our passions and fears; every aspect of our lives, everything we can think of. Nothing is too big or too small for Him to care about. If it is important to us it is important to Him. Our job is to open ourselves to His awesome love.
Why He loves us so is the mystery we have difficulty wrapping our brains around. We are so unlovable so selfish it is difficult to comprehend such a selfless love. Yet that is the nature of Jesus, of God. He is Love Incarnate. It is impossible for Him to go against His nature and not love us even with all our faults. Who can understand all this?
Jesus said “Come to Me, all you who are burdened…”. Why don’t we come to Him? So many people accept illness or just get by when they don’t have to. Our faith tells us that Jesus is present in the Eucharist. Scripture (Hebrews 13:8) tells us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. We know from the gospels that Jesus healed all those who came to Him in faith. Why do we walk into church not expecting miracles?
Why don’t we experience miracles at mass? Could the fault be ours? Could it be that we never expect miracles? Could it be that we insist on healing on our terms not Christ’s? We want to be healed physically but refuse the spiritual, emotional and relational healing that Jesus wants to give us first? Are we too stubborn to change or give up our sins? Do we refuse to give up our sins? Are we too full of pride to let God in?
Are we like the people of Nazareth who were so used to Jesus that they couldn’t imagine Him performing a miracle? Have we gotten so used to receiving Communion that we’ve forgotten the God who is present in all His Divinity? Have we forgotten the power, glory and majesty present in the Eucharist? Has Communion become an empty ritual rather than a miraculous encounter with the Creator of the Universe? Is the problem that we expect nothing to happen and therefore receive nothing?
Is it that we don’t believe that God loves us that much? Do we think we’ve messed up so much that we’re unworthy of healing, that we deserve to suffer? Do we not believe God’s promise in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God? Do we not believe that by His stripes we are healed?
God wants to bless us every time we receive Communion. We have to open ourselves up to His infinite love and allow Him to bless us. We have to say yes to His agenda. Open your heart and say yes. Allow Jesus to knock your socks up. Let go of the fear, the pride or anger that blocks you from His awesome love and grace.
Be Filled with Awe
Several years ago I went to a Christmas Eve mass in Jersey and the priest was an old retired priest who seemed to ramble or maybe I was too tired to follow him. One word struck me and the word was awe. Can you imagine the awe the shepherds felt? Angels appeared to them to tell them that a savior was born.
They went to see a newborn baby and believed that this baby would save Israel. They went and saw a poor carpenter with his young wife who gave birth in a stable and worshipped the newborn king. Jesus certainly didn’t look like a king lying in a manger yet they were in awe. They saw beyond the appearances and believed.
This Christmas and everyday we get to see the same Jesus the shepherds worshipped if we go to mass. Every day, Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity appears at mass and is worshipped by the angels. If we look beyond the appearances and believe we get to be in the presence of God. Better than the shepherds we know that Jesus is God. They didn’t.
Shouldn’t we be filled with awe at this great privilege? We get to approach and talk to Almighty God. He wants to dwell in our hearts. Almighty God wants to dwell intimately in my heart and yours. Angels can’t receive Him in communion but we can.
How different things would be if we truly understood the awesomeness of the Eucharist? We get to be intimate with God. We get to hold Him in our hands, to touch Him and to consume Him. We get to tell Him about our joys and sorrows, our dreams and concerns. We get to bring Him ourselves as a gift and offer Him our lives. We are closer to Jesus than the shepherds were; even closer than St. John who rested his head on the chest of Jesus at the Last Supper. All because He loves us!
On Christmas Eve I thought back to the Old Testament days and how the Hebrews worshipped in the Temple. Only a priest could enter the Holy of Holies. The people were separated by the curtain. Even the priest had to be purified and went in awestruck, often fearful of dying. It was no simple thing to approach Almighty God. Only a few were able to talk to God in the Old Testament, prophets like Moses and Elijah.
How different is it for us today! Even seven-year olds can approach Jesus and receive. What a privilege! Maybe we should take lessons from First Communicants. Many seem more devout and awestruck than the adults who received. As we grow up we tend to take Communion for granted, forgetting what an awesome gift we receive. Unfortunately, receiving Communion gets routine and we focus on other things and distractions. In a way it seems like Catch 22. The more we are distracted, the less graces we receive, the less aware we are of the privilege we have and the more likely we are to be distracted in the future. It seems like a never-ending cycle.
Somehow we need to get back to the sense of awe we once had, to focus again on the awesomeness of receiving Almighty God in Communion. The big question is how we do this. How have other people done this?
Many people have had their faith completely stirred by going on a pilgrimage. For some reason it is easier for us to believe at a place like Medjugorje or the Oratory of St. Joseph’s in Montreal. Maybe it is because we are away from the distractions of people we know. Maybe it is because of the devotion of many of the people who surround us at these sites. People aren’t there because they have to fulfill their Sunday obligation but because they want to be.
As tempting it may be we all can’t go on a pilgrimage. We have to find a way to awaken in ourselves the sense of awe we need. We shouldn’t need to go to St. in Montreal or to St. James in Medjugorje. The same Jesus in the tabernacle there is in our local tabernacles. Perhaps we need to start by prayer asking God to give us the sense of awe that He wants us to have. Probably the best place to pray for this is in front of Jesus in the tabernacle or exposed at Adoration.
The next thing I would do would be to pray before mass asking Mary and the Holy Spirit to help you to be as prepared as you could be, to help you focus on what the Spirit wants you to learn at mass and to help you focus on Jesus. Ask Mary to help you to pray especially after Communion. Father John Hampsch has a prayer that he distributes asking Mary to tell Jesus the things we should be saying.
Another thing I would consider if possible would be attending weekday masses at a neighboring parish where I don’t know anyone. That might help eliminate some of the distractions because we don’t know anyone. It makes it easier to focus on Jesus rather than who’s there.
Jesus, help me to regain the sense of awe at the awesome gift You give me in the Eucharist. Help me to focus on You and Your incredible love. Amen.
Originally published on Catholic Lane
Yesterday I brought Communion to one of our homebound parishioners. I, an ordinary Catholic was privileged to carry Jesus, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son of God, the King of Kings, Savior of the world to another Catholic to consume. I held God in my hand and gave Him to another. Can we be more privileged? Even Francis of Assisi never did that since he wasn’t a priest.
Do we realize how blessed we are? Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our faith teaches that Jesus is totally present in every Eucharist. The Jesus I carry in my pyx is the same Jesus that healed the leper, multiplied the loaves and fishes, raised Lazarus from the dead and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday. He is not a watered-down version but the Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Miracle Worker, Conqueror of Death, King of Kings, Lamb of God, God of Wonders, Light of the World, the Alpha and Omega, Bread of Life, Our Champion, Divine Physician, the Almighty One, the Beloved Son, Creator, Eternal One, Emmanuel, God With Us, Our Healer, the King of Glory, Lord of Lords, the Messiah, the Name Above All Names, Our Provider, Ruler of the Universe, the Rock of Ages, True God and True Man and so much more.
Think about it! How privileged we are to serve Him in such an intimate way! How blessed we are to be able to hold the God of the Universe in our hands and give Him to others. We must never forget how blessed we are or take this privilege and responsibility lightly. We should always do it with reverence and expectancy. After all, God is still in the miracle business.
When it comes down to it the most important thing to remember is that it is the love of God that really matters. We can get caught up in so many things. We can worry about the proper way to pray. We can search for the perfect prayer as if it is a magical formula. We can worry about the proper position to pray in.
There are so many things that we get hung up on. We criticize people for the way they pray or the way they dress for church. We can argue about the style of music. We can fight over when to stand or sit at mass. We can disagree over receiving communion in the hand. A lot of people seem to waste time and energy on issues like this.
What really matters is that God loves us that He sent His Son to die for us. He loved us so much that He created the Eucharist in order to be with us. All the power that created the universe is present in the Eucharist. The God of Love wants us to come to Him with all our needs. The God of Love wants us to trust Him. He waits for us to come to Him in the Eucharist. All we have to do is respond to this incredible love. That is all that really matters.
God loves us with an infinite love beyond our imagination. He knows and wants what is best for us. He waits in the Tabernacle to bless us. Jesus who loves us is present in the Eucharist and wants to do what is best for us. He should be our focus not our egos, not our formulas, not our concepts of how one should dress or pray.
Jesus is all that matters. He loves us and we need to open ourselves to His love so that He can give us what we need most. Nothing else matters but learning to open ourselves up to His love more and more each day. We need to learn to surrender ourselves and allow Him to change us from the inside.
What else could really matter as much as the love of God for us as individuals? Nothing we’ve done in our past or will do can separate us from His love. There is nothing we can do to earn His love. He loves us because He is Love. Love is His nature.
We can accept that Love or reject it. For most of us life is a battle or journey where we gradually, painfully learn to open ourselves us to accepting the gift of His love. Too often we try to earn it or hang back in shame rather than opening ourselves totally and completely to His love. We hang back in fear keeping our hearts open only a little rather than letting the floodgates of His grace change us.
Open your hearts to the greatest love there is. Ask for the grace to open your heart totally. Ask for the grace to trust Him totally. Ask for the grace to respond to His Love. That is what life is really about. Do this and you will experience blessings you can’t even imagine.
We can read a million books on faith, religion and God. We can go to conference after conference. We can listen to tape after tape. We can spend our lives learning fact after fact but in the end all we really need to know and share with people is the love of God. It is that love that saves us. All we have to do is open ourselves up and accept His love, allowing Him to change us.
Jesus, I believe that You love me more than I love myself, more than anything that I can imagine. I believe that Your love for me is infinite, beyond comprehension, limitless. I believe that You know and want what is best for me, that you want to pour your love and blessings upon me.
I believe that You loved me enough to die for me. I believe that You would have endured the entire Passion just for me out of love. I believe that You have forgiven all my sins and that I can come to You at anytime in confession and receive Your awesome mercy.
I believe that You are present in the most holy Eucharist, that You created the Eucharist out of love, that the Eucharist is love itself, that You wait in the Eucharist to pour out your love upon me.
I believe but help my unbelief. Help me to believe in my heart, not just my head. Strengthen my faith in Your awesome love for me. Help me to open my heart to Your love. Help me to put aside all that may block my receiving the love and blessings You want to give me.
Help me to let go of my past, of any sins or mistakes for which I keep beating myself up. Help me to let go of any sense of unworthiness and remember that it is your love not my worthiness that matters.
Help me to let go of all pride, the false sense that I have to earn Your love, that I have to do things on my own. Help me to turn to You.
Help me to let go of all fear and doubt. Help me to totally put my trust in Your awesome goodness, love and mercy.
I want to be totally open to You, Jesus. I want You to come into my heart and heal the wounds of my past. I want You to help me to forgive all those who’ve hurt me. I want You to change me from the inside, to help me let go of all the anger, resentments, to let go of the pride and independence, anything that keeps me apart from you.
I want to know You, personally. I want an intimate relationship with You. I want to see You each time I receive You. I want to feel Your presence, Your love in my heart. I want to hear Your voice. I want You to guide me with every decision I make. I want You to take charge of my life. I want You to truly be my Lord and Savior. I don’t want to live my life anymore. I want to live Your life. I want to serve You, to be Your hands and feet. I want to receive Your love and bring it to those around me. Help me to do so.
Come into my heart and change me into the person You created me to be. Fill me with Your love. Free me of all fear and doubt and help me to trust You with everything, my health, family, finances, career, relationships, everything.
Help me Jesus, draw me close to You. Let me live in Your heart. Fill me with You. Take charge of my life. I surrender all to You and Your incredible love. Amen
More than half of all Catholics stay home from Sunday mass. To make it even worse many ex Catholics attend services in a Protestant church. One has to ask whether we really understand the Mass at all.
Millions flock to be in the same places that famous people have been. Men walk in reverence through the halls of West Point because Robert E. Lee, General s Grant, Custer, Mac Arthur and Eisenhower walked there. Hundreds of thousands have flocked to Independence Hall where Jefferson, Hancock, Washington and Franklin once worked. How many have gone to Yankee Stadium, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field to see where greats like Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Ernie Banks played? How many have gone to Hollywood or to Rome to tread where the great have walked?
We do these things because we want to connect with greatness, to feel we have a connection with someone we have admired greatly. We travel great distances and spend a great deal on money to be in the same spot as Frank Sinatra, Elvis or some other star once stood. We can go to Gettysburg and look out and think that Robert E. Lee once looked at these same hills.
Each Sunday, and often each day we have the opportunity to stand where St. Francis and St. Patrick once stood, before Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, the same Jesus Christ who John and Mary stood before at the Cross. In some mystical way beyond our capacity to explain we stand with Mary before Jesus on Calvary. We are joined by all those who ever worshiped Christ at mass.
We join in with St. Mary Magdalene, St. Monica, St. Benedict, St. George, Padre Pio, Frances Cabrini, Elizabeth Seton, Maximilian Kolbe, Mother Teresa and John Paul II as they worship Jesus in heaven. Every time at mass we say the Sanctus, the Holy, Holy, Holy we joined them in heaven as they worship the God of all Creation.
As we say the prayers of the mass we repeat in modern English the same words that all the saints used to worship God. We perform many of the same actions as the greats of the Church performed. Our mass is the same mass instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper. The prayers of the Consecration come from the New Testament accounts of the Last Supper. Our mass goes back to Jesus. Why would we want to attend any other Sunday service?
We should be in awe of what happens at mass. We stand with all those over the course of 2000 years who have worshipped God in the Mass. We receive the same Jesus who died on the Cross. We receive the same body and blood as the Apostles did at the Last Supper. We receive the same Jesus, Mary received in Communion. We receive the same Lord as any of our favorite saints. We not only get to stand where they stood but we get to touch and be touched by the same Jesus they touched.
At West Point they talk about the long grey line of cadets who went through there. Some how each cadet carries on the mission of those who went before. We too stand as part of a longer line of billions going back 2000 years to Mary, the first disciple. We share in the same tradition and mission. We are part of something greater than anything on earth. We not only connect with human greatness, we touch the Divine.
There was a T-shirt out a few years ago listing the Top Ten reasons to remain Roman Catholic. Among the reasons were the saints, a great pope and confession. The number one reason was the Eucharist.
It is the Eucharist that sets the Catholic Church apart from all others. We have the Real Presence of Jesus present in every Tabernacle and at every mass. Jesus, the Son of God, the Almighty One waits for us in our Tabernacle. We can enter the presence of the Lamb of God anything we enter a Catholic Church. The Miracle Worker from Galilee, the one who raised Lazarus, healed the paralytic and fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish sits waiting for us in the Tabernacle.
Could someone tell we believe all of this from observing us in church? Do our actions show our awareness that we are in the presence of God? Surveys tell us that less than a third of Catholics believe in the Real Presence. Surveys also tell us that maybe a third go to mass regularly. It would be logical to expect that those who go to mass come from the third that believe in the Real Presence.
However, our behavior makes me wonder if we really get it? This weekend a family of six or more walked across the front of the church to get to Grandma and Grandpa. They walked right past the Tabernacle and only the Mother nodded in respect.
During mass there was a late high school maybe college age student who used a Pda or I phone for the whole mass. He didn’t even stop for the Consecration. Then there are those who approach communion chewing gum. Aren’t we supposed to fast for an hour?
What about the people who wave and greet people all the way up the aisle? What about those who receive and walk right out the door? In one church last weekend it looked like a hundred people left before I even received. Jesus went through the whole Passion including three hours on the Cross and we can’t even stay for a whole mass.
What about those who dress as if they’re going to the beach rather than to see the King of Kings? What about those who dress so immodestly that one feels like changing seats?
It isn’t just on Sundays that you see bizarre behavior but during the week too. Amazingly enough people will stop to visit a church and pray before one of the statues on the side without even recognizing the Presence of Jesus in the Tabernacle. On occasion you even see this during Adoration. There was one woman who entered the church walked down a side aisle past the monstrance on the altar to her right and went and knelt before the manger then left without noticing the exposed Eucharist.
I spoke to one person who prayed before the statue of Mary and he didn’t know what the Tabernacle was or where it was located. It wasn’t that he was new to the church. I’ve seen him fairly regularly at the noon mass for the past twenty months.
Is it no wonder that we don’t see miracles more often? Maybe if we treated the Eucharist like God we’d see some.
This Wednesday I saw an extraordinary show of reverence for the Eucharist. A young Latino man maybe in his twenties or early thirties walked in the back door of the church. He didn’t look around the church to see who was there or at the statues. Instead he knelt in the center aisle his eyes locked on the tabernacle and on his knees went up the aisle to the sanctuary where he prayed as close as he was permitted to the tabernacle for a long time and then left.
I have no idea what he was praying for. His eyes glistened with tears. It was obvious that he knew he was approaching God. He knew who he was going to pray to. He knew what was important.
This is how we should all treat the Eucharist. Most of us probably can’t walk up the aisle on our knees but we can in our hearts. We have to be aware of the tremendous privilege of being in the presence of Almighty God of what a blessing it is just to walk into a Catholic Church. We have to lift up our hearts and attention to God present in the Tabernacle. We have to realize what a grace it is to spend time with Jesus after Communion. We would be wise to take advantage of the chance to be with him. The coffee shop, restaurant or grocery shopping can wait. The traffic in the parking lot will be gone if we wait with Jesus.
We can never make up those moments after mass with Jesus that we throw away by rushing. They are lost forever. We have to take advantage of every second we get to spend with Him. Rather than rushing off we should be like a lover in the movies watching the plane or train of their beloved until the last second?
Lord. We beg You to help us get it to understand the privilege of being in Your Presence and of receiving You. Help us to be more reverent, to focus our attention on You and to return Your awesome love. Amen